So This Is What My Normal Feels Like

I feel… Balanced. Emotional. In the middle of the two poles, yet still experiencing polar emotions, such as highs where my thoughts zoom and my feelings soar and influence decisions, as well as lows where I again contemplate suicide though never with intent. But I’m never high enough or low enough or there long enough for it to be a mood state.

I haven’t had anything to “talk” about here with my mood so stable. I even had nothing to talk about at my last therapist appointment. Cool changes are going on in my life – new nutritious eating, trying some additional exercise, a new organization membership. All good things, and nothing too particularly about bipolar to write about.

Except maybe this? I’ve talked with a couple people in academia about what I could expect as a PhD student and adjunct or tenured professor so I can decide if I can expect it of myself with this limited brain. I know that “limited brain” sounds like negative self-talk, but in this case it’s self-care because I am learning to accept my limitations and have realistic expectations of myself. A couple of the limitations I have now are that I don’t remember what I read very well (fiction is easier than non-fiction!), and that in conversations or when asked a question I have a hard time coming up with an answer or sorting my thoughts out to sound coherent or finding the right word. So I have a lot to think about to decide if I can do PhD work.

Let’s just enjoy my normal and hope it lasts a while!

Shootings, Suicide, and Spirituality

I am sick to death of shootings that kill or injure ANY number of people, not just the ones that “score” enough deaths to be considered “mass” shootings. My heart hurts. My soul is heavy. My body itches to DO something to ease the enormous pain my country is in.

This is not a new feeling. I can remember the ache as far back as childhood when gang violence in the cities was more likely to make the news than a lone wolf, cis- and young white male with a high-capacity gun was.

Yes, I said it. The problem is not just guns, though background checks and limiting them will make a huge difference. The problem is not just access to mental health treatment, though some of the shooters may not have been in treatment for their mental illness. No. I believe the current problem lies in cis- white, patriarchal supremacy that is replete through American culture.

Unfriend me if you wish. I just needed to say it. Because ever since we had a week full of violence in California, Texas, Ohio, and Illinois, just to name the ones I happened to hear about, I’ve been quiet and hurting, nauseous and aching for the pain, loss, and fear. I’ve also felt more suicidal, more often than usual, with the accompanying feelings of emptiness and lack of purpose.

Then a notorious, alleged criminal is said to have died by suicide (many think not, icymi). Just having suicide in the news is a trigger for suicidality for me. And now he won’t face the justice likely to have come down on him for atrocious acts. Many hearts scream for justice, and I hear them. And death seems a real possibility again.

I talked with my therapist about the suicidal thoughts and was reminded of coping skills that I can use before the feeling gets intense. Going to church is one of those coping skills, something I do to be social, to be encouraged toward ethical action, and to be inspired by the good that IS in the world. Then today, at the beginning of a service to recognize the grief and pain and urge to act because of the shootings, the suicidal feeling came back again. In my last community, I would very often drive to church with hope, only to leave suicidal. That hasn’t happened much in my current community, but here it is, happening again.

I’m using coping skills – such as blogging about my feelings – to ride out the suicidal feelings. But my heart still aches, and my stomach is nauseous.

A Resolution – Finally

I felt alone. It seemed everyone around me wanted me to continue with ECT. Yet it’s my decision. It’s my body. I live with the illness – and it’s consequences. I live with the treatments and the symptoms of anxiety they cause in me. Here is what I decided after several conversations with my therapist, my psychiatrist, the ECT team, and my mom. I even read medical journal articles.

I want my life back. I want the anxiety I’ve been living with to be back to reasonable levels that I know how to live with. My mood has been stable and my psychiatrist expects it to stay that way. I hope he is right! I’d like to learn how to live with a mood that experiences many emotions without dropping or accelerating into a mood state.

I decided NOT to do ECT anymore. I want to try medications again if my mood becomes depressed or manic again, or if I become suicidal. I have to get the port in my chest removed again since I no longer want to do ECT. (The port was used to access a vein so that nurses didn’t have to try multiple times per treatment to create an IV.) ECT has been helpful for getting my mood to baseline, and perhaps it would help in the future too. I’m just not sure, I don’t like the reaction I have to treatments (days of anxiety), and I’d rather work with pills. ECT had been a last resort when I started it last fall, and resumed it this spring and summer. I just don’t think it has to be my Go-To treatment method anymore.

I will be super vigilant about routine, schedule, taking meds, nutrition, exercise, coping skills, and sociability as I try to maintain a stable mood with these things that have Not proven to work before. But I will do what is personally in my power to care for my multiple mental illnesses. I will work with my psychiatrist for meds and therapist for coping and exploration as needed. I will reach out to others for support on a regular basis. So don’t be surprised if I contact YOU!

I’m taking my life back.

Decisions, Decisions

I am living with anxiety: I have coping skills. I have reminders from my therapist. I have a benzo I take 3x/day.

My anxiety was at a 10 on Thursday morning as I met with the doc for the second opinion on ECT, and then with the regular team I see before ECT to talk about the anesthesia trauma and the unbearable anxiety I’m living with. Man, I used every possible coping skill that morning, and I still blubbered all over the place as I talked about what I’m living with.

Ultimately that morning, no final decision was made about ECT. I Did Not Have a treatment that morning. I did not schedule a treatment. I only agreed to talk about the future of ECT and me at a later time when I was calmer an in my own home, not staring at the ECT trappings that reminded me of bad experiences. So Monday I will talk with a person who understands where I am coming from – knowing both the benefits I’ve experienced and the trauma and anxiety I cannot live with.

I was told that there is a med I can take that would drastically reduce my anxiety the day of ECT. And there is something (not sure what – find out Monday) that can be done to prevent anesthesia problems.

I am in the driver’s seat, and I am left with a horrible decision: Do I trust the ECT team with the things they can now do to earn my trust back for smooth ECT experiences, even though they were not offered when I had talked about my experience and great anxiety BEFORE? OR do I stop all ECT, and possibly never do it again, choosing instead to play medication roulette again should my mood waver again or I get suicidal again?

Decisions, decisions. I will get more info Monday.

How Best to Take Care of Myself

Anxiety has been my constant companion at an elevated state since the f*** up at ECT nearly 10 days ago. If my anxiety was at a 9 last week at therapy, it was an 8 this week. Ooooo – totally getting better. Not. I cried through most of the session again this week. And off and on the rest of the day afterward.

This is what I am holding on to. My therapist reminded me that it is my decision whether or not to have ECT. I have been through trauma related to the anesthesia of ECT that I keep reliving every.single.day multiple.times.a.day. Leading to panic and anxiety going up and down all the time. I no longer feel safe in my home or alone. The anxiety is waiting to get me, sometimes as an anxiety attack or as people or things waiting to jump out at me. While ECT has helped my mood like no drug ever did – I found baseline for me! – it has now ruined my life, in my mind. I might be exaggerating, yet I’m miserable now.

Before my next treatment, I have a second opinion appointment which is designed to see if ECT is helping and still beneficial for me. I promised my therapist and mom, I will tell him everything, from how much better my mood is, to the plan to do maintenance treatments so the results last longer, and now how the anxiety from the anesthesia gaff has traumatized me and the anxiety is nearly unbearable.

While I want the decision from me and the second opinion dr to be to stop ECT, I will keep an open mind. Maybe I need to stop for now so the anxiety can subside. Maybe I would need to start up again in the future. Maybe I will ever do it again, and will play pharmaceutical roulette with my psychiatrist if I need it. I just know I Need To Take Care Of Myself. And I’m holding on to ECT being OVER.

Anxiety Blows

I deal with anxiety on a daily basis, besides the bipolar disorder. I have generalized anxiety disorder including some form of OCD. I take meds for it, and I use a lot of grounding and mindfulness skills to work through the moments of unease and of panic.

The whole process and concept of ECT weirds me out and makes me anxious, starting several days before treatment. I have trouble managing the anxiety. And then I had the unfortunate experience of waking up after anesthesia was administered and before the procedure started to a feeling of not being able to breathe and not being able to move or talk to tell anyone because of the paralytic administered for the treatment. The experience lasted only a handful of seconds but scared the bejeezus out of me. And so now I Really Hate ECT and get super anxious leading up to treatment. Doggone it that it works for me!

This experience happened to me again last Thursday. I talked to my psychiatrist and to the ECT team about my anxiety-attack-level of panic, but it was my therapist the next day who Finally had something sympathetic and helpful to say! My anxiety is normal and doing what it is supposed to do – warn me of danger – he said. And all the coping skills I’ve learned and practiced for mood shifts and crises Will Work for this anxiety too. Now that my mood is stable, I have the opportunity to use these skills for naturally occurring emotions, and to deal with my anxiety disorder.

Hallelujah! Something to tell myself in the moment, as well as “tricks” to try when the anxiety prevents me from being in the moment, such as writing about the anxiety, both to get support from my support system, as well as to sort out what I’m feeling, and get some distance from what I’m feeling. And What Am I Feeling? Vibrating in the center of my solar plexus. Shallower breathing than I should be doing. Thoughts jumping from partially-formed thought to an awareness of panic that stops all thoughts. Fear. Paranoia. Failure.

Anxiety Blows.

Living with Bipolar, Even When Things Are Good

Well, it’s been a month since I posted! Wow! The good news is that I haven’t had something so pressing, so bothering me, that I needed to write it out and get feedback. ECT is slowing down a bit as we move into maintenance of a stable mood instead of treatment for depression and suicidality. Again, good news! My mood is stable and good – happy even. I want to stop doing ECT because it makes me anxious, but the last time I stopped when I was feeling good, I only had a few months of a good mood. And I’d like to have longer – hence, doing maintenance (once a month ECT for a while).

During this good, happy, stable mood period, I’ve been working on motivation by   exercising in the pool some, taking a short personal enrichment class online, reading a bit more, and working on becoming conversant in Spanish instead of just a reader of Spanish who needs a vocabulary lesson or two. Hooray for me! And yet I still watch way too much tv and have little to do and feel so very unmotivated. I’m giving myself credit for all that I am doing though, and for using my support system to help me with all of it.

Then there’s the anxiety I struggle with. I’ve cancelled get togethers or not gone to my support group because of anxiety. I’m trying to get help with living with the anxiety from my therapist and my mom. I’ve struggled to commit to a self-enrichment class (online) that lasts for 8 weeks because of anxiety about whether it was too much for me to accomplish at this time in my life. I finally came to some peace about it and committed to it. I think it will help me A Lot with finding joy and peace and motivation.

Then there’s the ongoing anxiety concerning the community college chemistry classes I signed up for – and paid a pretty penny for. Back when I was feeling good in January and February, I applied to the local community college, signed up for a summer class (which I ultimately dropped because the syllabus was boring), and signed up for fall and spring’s chemistry 1 and 2 with lab. I was trusting myself that my brain could learn again (there’s been some question) and remember things in order to learn again, and that I could handle the schedule of driving, class time, and lab right after class too.

In reality, I have anxiety about all of this, ongoing, that I have to talk myself out of, that this week became almost debilitating. And then in April I had a huge setback with my mood so that I was hospitalized and started ECT again. NOW I’m feeling better and stable again (yay!) but still anxious about these dang chemistry classes!

Long Story Short: I found science classes on Coursera.org – for free! – that started this week where I will get short lectures, readings, occasional quizzes, and discussion opportunities. I get the chance to study chemistry, etc. – with professors – at home. Anxiety drastically lessened as pressure on schedule, brain ability, and even pocketbook was reduced. So I dropped the community college classes and await my refund – and come to terms with how mental illness has yet again changed my plans, and I am again taking care of myself to avoid problems later. Maybe when I’ve been stable for longer, and maybe anxiety isn’t triggered by stress so easily, I can take traditional classes, if that’s a path I want to take in the future (cough, cough – my dream of a ph.d).